No one likes it when you individuate: that's a psychological truism. So it's not surprising to me that there is a wave of attacks on scholarly blogging. Good! We're past the ridicule phase then, and into the assault phase. Soon we'll be at the “I was always into blogging myself” phase.
Alex Reid has just posted another of his thoughtful interventions, this time on the blogging issue. I think his argument is right on the money. Blogging isn't just a sideline, it's a form of scholarship, and it's threatening because it's new and because it's easy and free and widely accessible.
And for the oldest reason of all: “I didn't give you permission to start doing it.”
This in particular is an excellent, excellent point:
It would seem to me that the average academic (or academic journal) seeks to avoid exposure. Publishing an article in the "Journal of narrowly-focused humanities studies" is a good way to hide. Those who do manage to find you will probably be sympathetic. Plus you always have the shield of peer-review: clearly someone thought what you said was ok. Even if someone disagrees with you, the differences will likely be on details that very few people will know or care about. Besides, by the time that person manages to write and publish a response, your article is in the distant past. In any case, this almost never happens. Since 93% of humanities articles are never cited you can safely publish with the assumption that no one will ever mention your article again. Phew!
If you've never tried, then when you do, be sure to recognize the implicit conservatism of journals. I've been told more times than I can count that my essay “isn't even an essay” and has no right to be born, because of this force. Books, no problem.
Why, while we're on the subject? Well, to buy a book is to be prepared to be surprised—to pay to be surprised, in fact. Who wants to pay for something they already know?
There are just a lot of intrinsically conservative forces in journal world. Think of a harried editor with 90 essays in the pipeline (I know, I used to be one). How do you figure out what to send to the advisory board, what to summarily reject, etc? You have to go, just a bit, with “what's in the air.” Like a record store manager you have to think fast when a new product arrives. Does it go in Heavy Metal or Rhythm and Blues? If it doesn't fit, you are bound to be a little suspicious.
Blogging is a great opportunity to explore new ideas in a different environment. I won't say it's free of all consequences. There are all kinds of forces at work here too. But at least you can get your weirdness out there.
If Socrates really did sit around in the Agora, and if pre-Socratics did wander around getting paid to think as piece work, then they were doing with their feet what bloggers do with their laptops.